(1981) Based on D.H. Lawrence's once controversial novel (banned in the US until 1959 and in the UK until 1960) of an aristocrat's wife becoming the gamekeeper's spiritual spouse, director/co-screenwriter Just Jaeckin's appealingly photographed version emphasizes more the sensual scenes of love making than the earthy language of the 1928 book, largely excluding Lawrence's mystical theories of sex.
A matronly guest at a ball in the home of Sir Clifford Chatterley (Shane Briant) remarks on the bride's vitality: "She's alive in a way the others never could be." During the festivities, war between England and Germany is declared; after Sir Clifford returns home to his wife from France a shattered man, paralyzed below the waist from a shell's explosion, damaging his spine, a visitor, "an elderly woman possessed by vain regrets," expresses pity that he's "not more than half a man."
Constance, Lady Chatterley (Sylvia Kristel), says to her husband of the nearby estates being sold: "It's as if the whole world is collapsing around us." Sir Clifford replies: "Everything changes except change itself." In a discussion of the purpose of being born - for everything or for nothing? - Connie comments: "It's just a matter of making up our minds."
Seeming to take consideration of his wife's awkward situation, "denied a very serious part of life," Sir Clifford grants her permission to take a lover if she so chooses. Too bad we can't observe people's bodies as we can naked sculptures, muses Connie to her husband: "The worst part of people is their face."
When Sir Clifford's condition appears to worsen, Mrs Bolton (Ann Mitchell), a nurse, enters the couple's home, where she's asked to remain for an extended stay, playing cards and chess with her crippled patient while encouraging him to engage in a regimen of exercises to strengthen his back. At the same time as Mrs Bolton's arrival, sent to inquire about pheasant eggs from the gamekeeper, Connie covertly observes Mellors (Nicholas Clay) washing himself outside his cottage; after fantasizing about him at night, she returns to see him the next day but is met with rude insolence.
"Would you mind if I had a child?" she asks her husband. "I trust your taste," he answers. In an unusual visit with the local clergyman, Connie's advised to consider "a period of trial," about which she tells Sir Clifford: "I thought I'd book an appointment with the Holy Ghost."
Unable to procreate his own dynasty, Sir Clifford wants a male heir by other means; widowed at 24, middle-aged Mrs Bolton, having become an ex-officio member of the family (with ulterior motives in her subtle encouragement of the wife's extracurricular activities while ensconcing herself in business matters from which Connie is uninvited), compliments Connie: "You're a true woman."
Once Connie and Mellors are compelled to copulate through animal magnetism, their feral relationship develops into an appetite for each other. Telling his highborn paramour of his wish to experience everything to the fullest in life, Mellors declares he'll have no regrets in the end. As their attachment takes on emotional entanglements, Connie cautions Mellors's possessive bent: "I couldn't live without you, but I couldn't live if he knew about you."
Demonstrating his authority over Mellors and a cruel streak, Sir Clifford orders his gamekeeper (whom he regards as just "so much live human meat") to thrash a pair of poachers, out-of-work colliers, in front of Connie, who has pleaded for their not being prosecuted.
Referring to himself as her "fucker," which Connie corrects as "lover," Mellors complains of her exploiting him for physical pleasure without regard for his person: "You wouldn't marry me if free." She counters him with qualification: "I would be your wife, but I can't leave Clifford." When Connie denies that class difference has anything to do with her attitude toward him, Mellors retorts: "It has everything to do with it."
Finally, Connie - "I am your wife in the woods" - acquiesces to Mellor's insistence that she spend a night with him in his cottage; upon her return to the manor in the morning, Sir Clifford shuns her, expressing disapproval of her stooping so low as to be with Oliver (Connie hadn't known or asked Mellors of his Christian name). Exiled to Italy to stay with Sir Clifford's sister, who left her husband, she refuses dalliances with other men, eventually going back to her husband's home, where she learns of Mellors's dismissal to the mines; nevertheless, proud and pregnant, she tells Sir Clifford: "He's the father and your name be damned."
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